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Smart money ladies dodge scams

09 September 2012

It’s September. Spring is here. Christmas is around the corner and, of course, you’ve checked your financial health.

No matter: logon to ASIC’s (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) website MoneySmart and get intimate. The site’s done in conjunction with the Federal Government and features simple financial “Health Checks” you can do; “Calculators” you can use; tips on how to rectify poor financial health, and an eye-opening warnings section on scams. 

The quick quizzes and calculators act as prompts to set and check different goals, debt levels, mortgage, investment and superannuation levels. They also act as early warning devices, ensuring you remain on track and in control of your finances.

HITMAN scams

For the really interesting information on scams and how to avoid falling prey to shonky operators you should also go to SCAMwatch: a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). SCAMwatch provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams. In 2008 a ‘Hitman’ scam occurred which was pretty terrifying for those who received the message. It went something along these lines:

“Sum1 paid me to kill you. get spared, 48hrs to pay $5000. If you inform the police or anybody, death is promised...E-mail me now:”

The scam struck again in July this year with a similar message: 100s of people received death threats by SMS and were told to send money if they wanted to avoid the terrifying consequences. Reportedly, following the scam, there was a spike in triple 000 calls to the police, especially in NSW.

They’ve been called conmen, flim-flam men, grifters, snake oil salesmen. Whatever you know them as, scammers have all kinds of tricks to get you to part with your cash or identity. There are money reclaiming and rebate scams, fake prize and competition scams, job and employment scams, get rich quick schemes, small business scams, health and weight loss scams, identity theft scams, telemarketing and mobile phone scams. The list is endless and modus operandi remarkably inventive. 

Here are some practical tips scammed from the ASIC and ACCC sites to stay one step ahead of the scammers:

•Check things out yourself. Don’t take the word of the person at the other end of the phone, email, SMS, etc

•Ask questions – no matter how credible it sounds

•Always protect your personal information (no one should be asking for information unless they can prove their authority and that is not possible on the phone)

•Secure your computer and mobile devices - for example, use anti-virus software, don't open suspicious looking emails and don’t return suspicious or threatening emails.

•Reduce telemarketing calls - get your name off the call list

The ACCC has this to say about scams: “Many scams originate overseas or take place over the Internet, making them very difficult to track down and prosecute. If you lose money to a scam, it is unlikely that you will be able to recover your loss. The SCAMwatch site is to help consumers recognise and prevent scams.”

The ACCC’s roles also include other areas of consumer protection, infrastructure regulation, cartels and other forms of anti-competitive conduct.

ASIC licenses and regulates Australian companies, financial markets, financial services organisations and professionals who deal and advise in investments, superannuation, insurance, deposit taking and credit, including banks.

ASIC is an independent body set up to ensure Australia’s financial markets are “fair and transparent, supported by confident and informed investors and consumers”.


Useful links